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As Seth Godin Asks, What Are You Making?

Photo Credit: Craft Table by Eden, Janine and Jim

Photo Credit: Craft Table by Eden, Janine and Jim

When I’m working shows, I meet so many people who say they are not creative. I find that so hard to believe. They look at my jewelry work and say they would never conceive of such things.

I have a hard time convincing people who think they’re not creative, that they can be.


The subject of creativity fascinates me. The question of who has it and how they get it and the role that mindset plays in the process. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately – about entrepreneurial creativity. Listening to podcasts, by the way, is an excellent and creative way to learn on the fly – so much good information being for recorded!

One series I listened to recently was from Seth Godin’s Startup School, a series of recorded excerpts from an entrepreneur workshop he facilitated in 2012 for a select group of applicants. I noticed in this series and also on his blog that he refers to the entrepreneurial “thing” you’re doing as “what you’re making.”

I like that interpretation. It takes me all the way back to elementary school.

Remember the days when we were presented with a table full of random materials – paper, fabric scraps, pipe cleaners, cardboard, wire, glue, scissors – and our own imaginations? We were given the open-ended instruction to “make something.”

We would ask each other, “What are you making?” Seth Godin asked his workshop participants that same question.


Some kids knew immediately exactly what they were going to make and dove in with purpose, grabbing up the choice elements from the materials. (Ok, well yeah, I was one of those fast grabbers! But my mom was a teacher/artist/crafter – so I had a distinct advantage.)

Some others got the best of what remained and then figured out what they would do with them.

But there was one more group, smaller in number. Maybe only two or three of the kids, left to salvage something viable from the leftovers. They were totally bewildered by the assignment and sat there, with maybe a scrap of cardboard in one hand and a couple of pieces of string in the other, watching the rest work. Sometimes they would get up and wander around, looking desperately at the ideas taking form in other kids’ hands, clutching their cardboard and string and no clue what to do with them. And running out of time to finish their projects.

That was probably the day they decided they were not creative.


Children live what they learn. We carry our experiences, our defining moments, from childhood all the way into adulthood. Were you the one with the leftover string and torn piece of cardboard?

If so, you probably felt totally lame inside as you watched a cool and awesome classmate make some very cool and awesome thing. And you made the decision at that very moment that you are not creative.

So now, nothing I say will convince you otherwise. Because you’ve carried that lame feeling much, much longer than you’ve been listening to me.

It’s become a part of you.


But consider this. Maybe that just wasn’t your set of materials. Maybe if the items on the table had been different, you’d have been in your element, full of ideas and grabbing all the best stuff. Maybe if you’d had the whole table to yourself and a few more minutes to think without the added pressure of competition and peer scrutiny.

Maybe wirework is not your thing. But with polymer clay you would soar. Enameling may be too challenging or the materials too expensive for your budget, but you might love the intricacy and detail of seed beading.

The point is not to close your mind to possibilities. To options.


It’s easier, though, to just say I’m not creative. Because then you don’t have to try. You don’t have to think too hard. You don’t have to reach within. You don’t have to risk not being the best at something. You don’t have to feel disappointed – or worse yet, to feel you have somehow failed.


I’ve been making jewelry for 17 years. So of course, someone who walks into my booth and has never touched a pair of round nose pliers is not going to be able to do what I do.

I couldn’t do 17 years ago what I do now.


It takes practice to make something good. It takes determination to turn out a cool product. Some dedication. Recognizing, as Godin says, that “it might not work.” Willingness to fail. Loss of good money. The moxie to risk costly materials in experimentation. It takes starting over sometimes. Staying up all night working at it. Dreaming about it. Reading. Learning. Apprenticing. Going to a show and selling next to nothing. Going to a show and nearly selling out. Continuing to show up … and show.

It takes the audacity of asking. Putting yourself out there.

No successful creative endeavor is an overnight sensation.


I always tell people they do have creativity inside – they just haven’t found it yet. They haven’t yet found their thing to “make.”

Because I believe it’s in there. It’s in you.


So. What are you making? I’d love to hear about it. Share it in the comments below.


Seth Godin on Failing Until You Succeed – Interview by Entrepreneur Magazine

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